VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6 THE FOURTH DECADE X SEPTEMBER, 1997 7
NIGHTMARE IN DALLAS: A REVIEW
John Delane Williams
Nightmare in Dallas is the autobiographical story of
the "Babushka Lady" written by Beverly Oliver, with
Coke Buchanan . As is typically true of firsthand
accounts, no footnotes or references are encountered,
even when their use would be required; for example,
several JFK speeches are quoted at length without cita-
tion. The co-authorship of Coke Buchanan (who appar-
ently had a large hand in the actual writing) is due at least
in part to some serendipitous parallels in their lives —
while Oliver was in Dealey Plaza, the younger Buchanan
was at Love Field, viewing the arrival of JFK. Three years
later, they were both working at the same restaurant in
Dallas, she as a singer and he as a waiter, though they
only became aware of this mutuality in 1992, when
Buchanan was writing an article regarding the JFK assas-
Though they separate the book into six parts, the book
can be seen as in two parts, the first part ending shortly
after JFK's death, and the second part continuing on with
Oliver's life. The first part intertwines the chronology of
Oliver's and JFK's lives, with JFK's life recorded to a
considerable degree by lengthy quotes from his speeches,
one of which goes on for seven pages. The reason for the
inclusion of Kennedy's speeches was to help re-establish
the memory of Kennedy's presidency, in contradistinc-
tion to the more recent focusing on the negative aspects
of Kennedy's personal life. 
At the age of 1 4, Beverly Oliver, who lived in Garland
(a Northeast suburb of Dallas) had appeared in a variety
of Western venues as a singer. She went to the Colony
Club in Dallas (a strip tease club which was a near
neighbor of Jack Ruby's Carousel Club) and was in-
volved in two amateur strip-tease contests on a dare.
Jack Ruby introduced himself to heron the street after the
second contest. At 14, Oliver also found herself preg-
nant. She gave birth to a baby girl on February 22, 1 962.
The child was given up for adoption. In the summer of
1962, she got a job as a saloon singer at the family
amusement park. Six Flags Over Texas. There, she met
Larry Ronco, an Eastman Kodak representative who kept
John Delane Williams
522 Belmont Rd.
Grand Forks , ND 58201-4906
VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6
THE FOURTH DECADE
the park in film and plastered the park with pictures of the
attractive Miss Oliver. When it was found out that she
had performed at the Colony Club, she lost the Six Flags
job. When the season ended, Ronco stayed in Dallas,
continuing to see Oliver, eventually proposing to her,
though his own marriage was not yet ended.
Oliver then went to work for the Colony Club as a
singer between strip acts. She also began to cultivate a
relationship with Jack Ruby at the nearby Carousel Club.
Before 1 962 was ended, she had accompanied Ruby on
one of his many trips. She apparently added "class" to
Ruby; there apparently was no sexuality in their arrange-
1963 brought additional complexities to the life of
young Miss Oliver. She accompanied Ruby to New
Orleans (Oliver doesn't give a time, but Kantor (3] puts
this in June, 1963) as Ruby was booking Jada (Janet
Conforto) to dance in his club. Ronco returned from
New York, not with divorce in hand, but rather with a
not yet publicly available Yashika movie camera for
Beverly. Ruby tried to talk Ronco out of the camera; the
best he could get was that Ronco said he would get Ruby
one "when he could get his hands on another one".
Inferring from what was known later (Ronco had alleg-
edly stolen a painting, p. 141), Ronco may have stolen
the prototype camera (it was placed in general release
in 1 965 ) when he was employed by Eastman Kodak
(this inference is the present writer's and not made by
Oliver had seen David Ferrie around the Carousel
Club so much that she thought he might be an assistant
manager. She also saw Roscoe White at the Carousel
Club; his presence there was not unusual, since his wife
Geneva was employed at the Carousel as a hostess;
Oliver knew Roscoe White only as Geneva's husband.
Oliver was introduced to Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack
Ruby; Jada was also present (again, Oliver does not give
a date, but it would appear that this would have occurred
between November 8 and November 1 2). A few days
later, Oswald was thrown out of the Carousel by Ruby for
disturbing a comedy routine. At about the same time,
Ronco claimed that Ferrie offered him $50,000 to kill
November 21-22, 1963
On the 21st, Oliver went to the Carousel Club; she
intended to attend several parties with Ruby. She talked
briefly with Jada. Oliver was wearing the green and
white polka-dot silk dress purchased for her by Ruby.
Ruby took offense that, since Oliver was staying up all
night and then, without changing, watching the JFK
motorcade. .."You mean you're going to wear the dress
I bought you down to see that S.O.B.?" Around 9 PM.
Ruby and Oliver entered the Cubana Hotel. Oliver says
that Larry Meyers was introduced to her (Meyers, a
sporting goods salesman from Chicago has said that he
met with Ruby at the Cabana on November 21 ; (5) no
mention was made of Ol i ver.) Another of the mysterious
people with them was a person referred to as "Donny
Lance", whom Oliver danced with and who presumably
was a "business" associate of Ruby's, (pp. 108-109)
Ruby, Meyers and Oliver then went to Campisi's (The
Egyptian Lounge) for steaks around 1 0 P.M. (Curiously,
Ruby had reportedly gone to dinner that evening with
Ralph Paul, a business associate and co-owner of the
Carousel Club.  They (Ruby, Meyers and Oliver)
returned to the Cabana Hotel where Oliver put on a dark
wig and went to a party with an unnamed escort (a
curious part of the Oliver-Buchanan writing is the drop-
ping in of little mysteries) in Ft. Worth around 1 A.M.
Perhaps, it was the second time they went to the Cabana
Hotel that is described by Kantor,  which would
explain why Oliver was not mentioned as being at the
meeting. Ruby is also said to have gone to breakfast at
2:30 A.M. with Larry Crafard, a handy-man employee at
the Carousel Club. One interpretation of this conflicting
information is that an attempt to establish an alibi was
being made for Ruby. 
From Ft. Worth, Oliver took a taxi back to Dallas. She
reached her car in The Colony Club parking lot around
1 1 :1 0 A.M. on the 22nd. There, she changed her shoes,
got the camera and proceeded to look for a good vantage
point to film the presidential motorcade. She chose a
place near the curb on Elm Street next to a father and son
(Charles Brehm and his son; Brehm was among the first
witnesses to be interviewed; see ). As the motorcade
came into view, Oliver began to film. She likely had a
good recording of the Texas School Book Depository as
JFK turned onto Elm. She continued filming even after
JFK was hit. She stood motionless as many others began
running toward the picket fence, where Oliver assum
the shots had emanated. She recognized Roscoe W
(sans his gun) and felt he recognized her. Oliver n
drove home, taking a sleeping pill and then going o
When Oliver awakened and heard Oswald ha
I \ fuf 4. NUMBER 6
THE FOURTH DECADE
| with shooting JFK from the Texas School Book
it didn't make sense to her. JFK was shot
Tjfront not from behind. The person who was
1 4 of the assassination had only recently been
red to her. On Sunday, she found out about the
of Oswald by Ruby by watching television.
yyt^fToiiver was going back to the Colony Club to sing
* Monday evening, she was met by two men, probably
bon the FBI (she later identified one of the men as Regis
Jteoncdy, from the FBI in New Orleans). They took her
Lnyjeveloped film, told her it would be returned in a few
Jjyt and left. As she went into the club, two reporters
Dked her about Jack Ruby. She denied knowing him.
Oliver remembers saying "If they could kill the President
Of the United States, they could kill a two-bit show girl
like me and it wouldn't even make the back page of the
new*papcr"(p. 133). On Wednesday, Oliver wentto the
Carousel to find that Jada was gone, never again to be
Ittrn or heard of by Oliver.
Married to the Mob
I The relationship with Larry Ronco was short-lived;
Ifoneo changed after the assassination; his pursuit of
Oliver became so over-bearing that she obtained a
E * ilnlngorder. Later, she heard that Ronco committed
do. Oliver met a gambler named George McGann.
were married on July 31,1 966. The reception was
hosted by Tony and Janie Janero. Shortly afterward,
McCann admitted "wasting" Tony, who had gotten too
j*i behind in paying his bills. McGann and Oliver took
^jOvcr the Janero nightclub, the Sky Ki ng. At a get-together
tit McCann's friends (including, she determined later,
^Charles Harrel son), the JFK assassi nation came up. When
^Oliver tried to enter the discussion, McGann forceably
I Oliver from the room, threatening to kill her if
ever talked about it again. The gambling and
ccasional killing continued until McGann'sown death
jrred under suspicious circumstances on September
h 1970, following the death of their son George
*y 0* was given an assumed name) who was less
1 three hours old. In the six chapters devoted to her
with George McGann, Oliver fails to discuss her
her husband and Richard Nixon at the
Republican National Convention, which is re-
in interviews with Gary Shaw.  The only
1 °f the Nixon encounter in the present book is a
c (p. 197) wherein she describes her meetings
> Shaw. •
Oliver's existence from 1 4 to 24 would <
to be the stuff of Hollywood scripts but not the stuff of a
real life. At a very young age, she was confronted by
twists of fate that must have tried her very soul . At 1 7, she
had given a child up for adoption, performed in a strip
tease show, sung in a variety of venues, but most recently
in strip clubs, made the acquaintance of what would
become the Who's Who of the JFK assassination, wit-
nessed that assassination from a few feet away, and
recorded that assassination on camera. That is heady
stuff which few of us would have the emotional stability
to withstand, particularly at 1 7.
Life Goes On
Prior to George's death, Oliver became involved in
fundamental Christian religion, adding her voice to the
choir, and often attended revivals. At one such revival,
she met Gary Shaw, and over time, gave him several
i nterviews. She also met an evangel ist, Charles Massagee;
they were married a few weeks later. If her life had been
on an emotional roller-coaster, at least she now had
someone she could depend upon. If the life of the wife
of an itererant Baptist evangelist can be normal, then it
would appear that some degree of normalcy had finally
come to her. That is not to say her life was easy; she
developed lupus, and a second son, Trey, died when he
was not yet three months old. A second daughter,
Pebbles, was born. Pebbles also appeared to be ill; a
suspected familial genetic disorder, primary
hyperoxaluria, may have been involved. Oliverdonated
a kidney to her daughter, despite having lupus. As of
July, 1997, Pebbles has had a total of four transplants,
including a I i ver transplant; the concern for her daughter
in the present seems more removed from Dealey Plaza
than a mere 34 years. [1 1 ]
Shaw had Oliver look at a variety of pictures to see
whom she might identify from the past. She identified
pictures of Guy Banister, and New Orleans attorney
Dean Andrews, who had earlier represented Oswald; all
had shown up at the Carousel Club. Also identified was
Jack Lawrence, (who was "Donny Lance", whom she
had seen on several occasions at the Carousel and
danced with at one time; while she doesn't explicitly say
that Lawrence was Lance in the book, she does so in
[1 2)). Jack Lawrence was reported to have been arrested
on the afternoon of November 22, 1963; he was suppos-
edly acti ng suspiciously d i rectly after the assassi nation at
the Downtown Lincoln Mercury dealership, two blocks
from Dealey Plaza. He had borrowed one of the firm's
cars the evening of November 21 for a "heavy" date. The
' VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6
THE FOURTH DECADE
car Lawrence used was found behind the picket fence at
the grassy knoll.  Lawrence denies all of these
allegations.  Inkol, who considers himself to be
"careful researcher/'  had earlier concluded that
"...Lawrence was part of the conspiracy that killed
President Kennedy..." [1 6, p. 1 2] (Perhaps Inkol should
have been more "careful"). Inkol made a considerable
turnaround after interviewing Lawrence. It is difficult to
assess Lawrence's activities regarding Dallas, 1 963. On
the one hand, he appears to come under two of Van
Wynsberghe's [1 7] rules of thumb as to the usefulness of
a source's information regarding the assassination: "The
source defies corroboration", and 'The source is trailed
by nagging details." To be sure, Van Wynsberghe also
questions the reliability of Oliver, claiming she demands
faith in her story and citing additionally two of Oliver's
writings as indicating this expectation of faith/belief
[18,19]. Perhaps it is a matter of interpretation but I don't
Find Miss Oliver, either in her writing or in her interview
with me, to demand that she be believed, but rather, that
her story be seriously considered. It could also be
pointed out that the inclusion or exclusion of Lawrence
is not an essential component of her story. To be
excluded is more important to Lawrence. Oliver says
that "If it wasn't Lawrence she danced with on Novem-
ber 21 , 1 963, then it must have been his identical twin."
 The possibility of Lawrence being "set-up" by
someone should not lightly be dismissed. However, it is
clear that Lawrence's reported memory of events clashes
with a variety of other reports about his activities. Rose
renders the reasoned comment that the last word on
Lawrence is not Lawrence's perogative. 
Oliver may still be silent on some areas. There
continue to be people that she still..."refused to ac-
knowledge for fear of her life. There were people still
alive who could kill her for breaking the code of silence
about their activities." (p. 219) She also may be silent in
personal areas that she sees as having no bearing on the
Oliver went public, first on the British television pro-
duction, Ihe Men Who KHJ^ Kennedy, which was later
shown on American cable television.  She also
served as a consultant and had a brief part in the movie
1FK .  An interesting aside is that Jack Ruby taught
Beverly Oliver how to shoot a gun. (p. 242) In light of
this, it could call into question Tex Brown's assertion that
he taught Ruby and Oswald how to fire guns just prior to
the assassination.  It is possible of course that both
Oliver and Brown are entirely truthful, but it would *iU
bring up the question, "Why would Ruby go through th.
motions of learning how to fire a gun if he already km
how?" — unless going through the motions served sum.
Because of her own unanswered questions regard i ric-
her part in the assassination, Oliver decided to under*;. .
hypnosis. She was concerned that someone may h.n.
been programmed to shoot at JFK when they saw th»
woman in the green and white polka-dot dress; m.\\
that Sirhan Sirhan had met with a woman in a polka*<i« .*
dress immediately before Sirhan fired at Robert Kenneth
 She was also wanting to know why she had a vm
uneasy feeling about her last visit to Larry Ronu*
apartment, when she saw something and then did not g. .
in — but could not recall what she saw. The chapter i >n
Oliver's hypnosis demonstrates a positive approach ith.it
is, in a thoughtful therapeutic environment) to hypnosi .
though readers who are skeptical of hypnosis might 1>«
far more willing to agree with followers  of Elizabeth
Loftus  regarding the construction of "false memuu
syndrome." U nder hypnosis, Oliver reconstructed ev< tit •.
at Ronco's apartment. In the reconstruction, a man
named Roberto Guzman, whom she had seen togethri
with Ruby and Ferrie, was showing Ronco a gun. It was
this episode that presumably caused her to break on
relations with Ronco.
Larry Howard and Some Unusual Stories
Oliver met Larry Howard, the co-director of the |l k
Center in Dallas, who has been told some unusual stories
about the assassination, and has undoubtedly devel
oped a keen sense of skepticism. One such story was in
regard to Jack Ruby. In 1 980, a woman, not identified l>\
Oliver, living in Atlanta, received a press clipping about
Johnny Roselli with a typed note saying "Gene Dunbai
Jack Ruby, real name Jacob Rubenstein (and then signed
in a secret code known to the woman's husband). 1 he
woman and her husband knew the killer of Oswald as
Gene Dunbar. Dunbar and her husband worked under-
cover as information couriers for President Rooseve lt
from March 1 933 to September 1 945. (Kantor not onh
makes no mention of this in regard to Ruby, but also
Ruby was drafted into the Army Air Force from mid 1 94 l
to February 1946, serving at southern U.S. bases Ip
202]). The Atlanta couple made contact with the person
who sent the clipping, Thomas Kennedy, of Chicago
who claimed to be Ruby. "Ruby" claimed that another
man who was dying of cancer at the same time he wo>
VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6
THE FOURTH DECADE
in the Dallas hospital switched identities after the man
was dead (recall that Ruby died of cancer less than a
month after the diagnosis [28, pp. 429-433]). "Ruby"
was then flown to Mexico City by Ferrie where alter-
ations were made surgically of his face. The new "Ruby"
had blue eyes, not dark as were Ruby's. Also, there
seemed to be credible witnesses to Ruby's death. Still,
Kennedy had a remarkable knowledge of Ruby that was
unlikely to have been known by someone else. Also,
when Oliver asked Kennedy what was the only gift that
he had wrapped for her, Kennedy wrote, "a green and
white polka-dot dress."
Was Beverly Oliver Too Thin to be the Babushka Lady?
A nagging question is the issue of weight. The
"Babushka Lady" is termed "stocky" by Posner [29, p.
260]. Others have questioned whether the "Babushka
Lady" could possibly be the youthful Miss Oliver (in-
cluding recently Whitmey ). Pictures of the "Babushka
Lady" in Oliver's book (slipcase, 180, 181, 182) do
indeed appear to be someone heavier than pictures of
Beverly shown on page 1 77 (taken in 1 963, probably a
publicity photo) page 1 78 (taken at Six Flags, supposedly
in 1963, but probably in 1962) and at her wedding in
1966. (p. 177) Two other pictures from 1963 (p. 178,
with Larry Ronco and one taken in October by Ruby, p.
177) would indicate a person whose weight could
fluctuate rather rapidly. Not including the Six Flags
picture (probably from 1962), the three 1963 pictures
show Oliver carrying more weight than earlier or later.
Oliver says that she obtained a picture of the "Babushka
Lady" and had blow-ups done of the feet; Oliver has a
particular deformation involving the placement and
small size of her little toe.  Perhaps Miss Oliver can
be persuaded to share these pictures with the research
community. Pictures of the stocky Babushka Lady,
acknowledged by Oliver to be her, are undoubtedly
what she says they are. This is not to say that persons in
the research community shouldn't seek additional con-
firmation (or refutation) on this matter.
Why Did Oliver Write This Book?
Here, Oliver tells us why..."] have decided to write a
book about my experience so that people who are
interested will have a testimony with as much detail as
possible, even if its significance seems trite. I want to
record my story, get it behind me; then get on with my
life." (p. 279) It would seem redundant to try to go
beyond her statement.
Thanks to Beverly Oliver Massagee and Gary Shaw
1 . Oliver, B. with Buchanan, C. (1 994). Nightmare in
Dallas . Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishers.
2. Telephone interview with Beverly Oliver Massagee,
July 22, 1997.
3. Kantor, S. (1978). The Ruby Cover-up . New York:
4. Oliver, B. (1994). Letter to the editor. The Fourth
Decade. Vol. 1#2, 10-11.
5. Kantor (1978).
6. Rose, J.D. (1987). "You Don't Know Me, But You
Will: The World of Jack Ruby", Ihe Third Decade
Vol. 4#1 , 1-28.
7. Kantor, The Ruby Cover-up .
8. Moyer, M.A. & Gal lager, R.F. (1997), "Where Was
Jack Ruby on November 21 and November 22? The
Fourth Decade. Vol. 4#2, 7-14.
9. "JFK Assassination: As It Happened (NBC, Novem-
ber 22, 1963, rebroadcast, A&E, November 22,
1 0. Shaw, G. with Harris, L. (1 976). Cover-up . Cleburne,
TX: the authors.
11. Interview with Beverly Oliver Massagee, July 22,
12. Oliver, B. (1993). "Beverly Oliver Responds: An
Open Letter to the Research Community." The Third
Decade, Vol. 9#5, 9-13.
13. Marrs, J. (1989). Crossfire : The Plot that Killed
Kennedy . New York: Carroll & Graf.
14. Inkol, S. (1992). "Jack Lawrence Responds". The
Third Decade. Vol. 8#6, 1 -1 7.
15. Inkol, S. (1997). Letter to the Editor, Ihe Fourth
Decade. Vol. 4#5, 30-31 .
16. Inkol, S. (1991). "Jack Lawrence, Assassin or Fall
Guy?" The Third Decade. Vol. 7#5. 1-17.
1 7. Van Wynsberghe, S. (1997). "Chauncey Holt and
Problematic Sources". The Fourth Decade . Vol. 4#3,
18. Oliver, B. (1993). "Beverly Oliver Responds: An
Open Letter to the Research Community." The Third
Decade. Vol. 9#5. 9-13.
19. Oliver, B. (1994). Letter to the Editor, Ihe Fourth
Decade. Vol. 1#2, 10-11.
20. Interview with Beverly Oliver Massagee, July 22,
21 . Rose, J.D. (1 992) Editor's Note, Ihe Third Decade.
Vol. 8#6, 17.
22. The Men Who Killed Kennedy . (1988, October,
VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6
THE FOURTH DECADE
November). A&E Cable Television.
23.1FK. (1991). (Motion picture, produced by Oliver
24. Brown, R. with Lassiter, D. (1996). Broken Silenc e:
The Truth About Lee Harvey Oswald. LB|, and the
Assassination of JFK. New York: Pinnacle Press.
25. Turner, W. & Christian, J. (1 993). The Assassination
of Robert F. Kennedy : The Conspiracy and Cover-up.
New York: Thunder Mouth Press.
26. Pendergrast, M. (1995). Victims of Memory : Incest
Accusations and Shattered Lives . Hinesburg, VT:
Upper Access, Inc.
27. Loftus, E. & Ketcham, K. (1 994). Ihe Myth of
Repressed Memory : False Memories and the AMegai
tions of Sexual Abuse . New York: St. Martin's Press.
28. Marrs, Crossfire .
29. Posner, G. (1993). Case Closed . New York: Random
30. Whitmey, P.R. (1997). Letter to the Editor, Ihe
Fourth Decade. Vol. 4#2, 29-30.
31. Interview with Beverly Oliver Massagee, July 22,